Flipper-To-Ball: The Pinball Arcade

By Adam Smith on October 24th, 2011 at 5:32 pm.

Pinball is one of the few things I'm actually good at. I imagine that would be impressive if I hung around in diners in the '50s, or something

I sank countless hours into Pinball Dreams and Epic Pinball when I was a nipper, and then countless 50 pence coins into the table in the college bar at my university. I’ve always maintained that a good way to measure the true wealth of a man is to count the number of pinball tables he owns and I won’t consider myself a proper adult until I have at least one. For some people it’s a mortgage, a child or marriage, for me it’s about having a colourful, tuneful machine with metal balls bouncing around inside it. Until I do have my own pinball kingdom though, The Pinball Arcade may be of use to me, with its computerised recreations of real tables, the first four of which you can see in the trailer below.

The first four, did I say? Why, yes I did say that. The current plan is to release two new tables every month as paid DLC. Hopefully that means the game itself will be relatively cheap.

The developers are responsible for the Pinball Hall of Fame games, which never made their way out of consoleland but are very good indeed. I would have been happy to have those two ported across but I’d much rather have an ever-expanding collection of tables. Of course, it’s no replacement for the real thing, which is as much about assaulting the physicality of the table with hip and hand as it is about flippers and plungers, but if the ball physics are up to scratch, this could become a superb historical repository. The motion in the video seems a bit floaty but I’m probably worrying about nothing. I’m sure it’s a very believable ball.

Almost as important as ball-believability is licensing and FarSight have signed up an impressive roster, including Gottlieb, Williams, Data East, Stern Pinball and Bally. If I owned a company, whatever its purpose, I’d want it to be called Bally.

It’s not out until early next year, but now I want to fire balls at shiny doohickeys. Time to reinstall Future Pinball and see what’s new.

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70 Comments »

  1. ChampionHyena says:

    EPIC PINBALL!

    It may have been the first PC game I ever played.

    • Premium User Badge

      shoptroll says:

      Epic Pinball was my first introduction to shareware. Good times!

    • Wulf says:

      Oooh. Indeed, this does bring back memories of Epic Pinball. And as the poster below notes, the music is very similar, too.

      I do wish that pinball games would offer a top down view though as well as that slanted view. Frankly, I’m over that novelty, and mechanically Epic Pinball has taught me that top-down pinball games are the more playable ones.

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  2. djbriandamage says:

    Epic Pinball! The music, amirite?

    I’d love something equally captivating. I hope it will find a way to elegantly display a long table on a wide monitor, though.

  3. Shazbut says:

    Hope they get White Water

  4. Deathcrow says:

    pssst… Visual Pinball has hundreds of tables recreated by users and it’s free.

    • Mctittles says:

      I was wondering if anyone would bring this up. Visual Pinball + PinMame = all the pinball machines you could ever want. I’ve even found obscure tables I played at a random bar years ago that I thought I’d never have a chance to see again.

    • Mist says:

      I haven’t really kept up-to-date with the visual pinball community, but I do wonder what all these commercial recreations mean for the fan-made recreations? As in, I believe there was something of a gentleman’s agreement that the fans could use the official code/artwork etc as long as they didn’t make any money of it… but are companies like FarSight here happy with that?

      Sure, they might hope that many people go for the shiny graphics and thus will pay the few bucks instead of playing visual pinball for free, but still..

    • terry says:

      It’s also a pain in the behind to get working properly.

    • somedude says:

      I actually installed this last night, and the install was rather painless. It does require a few steps, but the vpforums guide lays it out very clearly, and I had no problems getting it set up.

    • ulix says:

      I’ll happily go for the bling and pay like 2€ or whatever per table.

  5. Teddy Leach says:

    Pin-to-Ball.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Nero says:

    I played quite a lot of the shareware version of Epic Pinball, had great music. But my favorite pinball game will forever be Pinball Fantasies.

  7. AchronTimeless says:

    Tristan.. that was my pinball crack growing up. The hours I sunk into that game…

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      And here I thought I was the only Tristan Pinball player out there. Nobody ever talks about it, anywhere. Was it really that obscure?

    • AchronTimeless says:

      Wow, another Tristan player. Yeah, I was beginning to think I’d hallucinated the whole thing since I’ve never seen it mentioned anywhere. Makes me wish I still had the disk.

    • Premium User Badge

      Thermal Ions says:

      Played so many hours of Tristan Pinball and shareware Epic Pinball. I was in pinball heaven.

  8. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    Oh, how I remember back in the day absolutely destroying all my friends high scores on Nightmare on Pinball Dreams.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Wisq says:

    I hope they include the ability to turn your widescreen monitor sideways and play in a more suitable aspect ratio.

    Of course, then I’d have to come up with a mounting arrangement for my not-rotatable monitor. But it would be worth it.

    Bonus points if they offer a flat-perspective mode so you can actually lay your monitor down horizontally and play it like a real pinball machine. ;)

  10. Hoaxfish says:

    Not sure how well DLC tables would sell… I mean, pinball is basically like Tetris or Minesweeper, the core mechanics are where it’s really at, and the “differences” between each game are small sprinkles on top.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      How does that make it any different than most DLC? Helpful in-game items, horse armour, additional levels, additional tracks (for music-based games), etc.

      Sure, some DLC is more “expansion pack” than other DLC, but a lot of it is just more sprinkles.

    • Brackynews says:

      Hahahahah, ask Zen Studios how well Pinball FX 2 and the Marvel tables are going for them. ;)
      Actually you don’t have to:
      http://www.gamesetwatch.com/2011/09/11/xbladlcaug2011.png
      Some quick math gives me a number of 637,000+ PFX2 DLC pinball packs sold on XBLA to date. (I didn’t include the 153k and 147k numbers for the core game, because I believe those are free downloads and free updates. I could be wrong though.)
      And that is just XBLA figures. I get my Zen tables on PSN.

      So yeah, FarSight wants a cut of that market. See my other comment below.

      Full article
      http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/37200/InDepth_Xbox_Live_Arcade_Sales_Analysis_August_2011.php

  11. siegarettes says:

    Darn, I was really hoping for something epicdiculous to replace my current habit forming pinball game, Pinball of the Dead:

  12. rudyriot says:

    I haven’t really enjoyed any video game versions of pinball machines because of the issues with perspective. Having the camera follow the ball never feels right, and the alternative fixed views are usually leave something to be desired. Maybe a wide-screen monitor turned on it’s side is the answer.

  13. iGark says:

    Crystal Calibur was the only pinball I ever played and it was awesome.

  14. Brackynews says:

    Farsight did a really excellent job with their hall of fame releases. It was hard to track down a 360 version but I got it. I’m thrilled that they are bringing some of the best tables ever made to the digi-pin realm. My jaw fell a little bit when I saw Black Hole. Played that at least 5 times at CAX this year.

    But I’m a little concerned that they are joining the DLC fray to take away marketshare from Zen Studios. Even though Zen typically does original and licensed IP, and Farsight has absolutely proved its credibility to the pinball companies for conversions. I dunno, I bet Zen is excited on one hand to see the quality conversions these will be, but on the other hand they will need to step up their licensing to get really appealing tables, and perhaps do away with the “original” ones they built themselves upon. Given the choice between spending $4 on actual Theatre of Magic or $3 on some “Magic Theater” knockoff, I’m going with the licensed table (first).

    They can do it though. Zen’s Captain America table is perhaps the most beautiful table (digital OR physical) I have ever seen.

  15. mbourgon says:

    Here for a Pro Pinball: Timeshock reference. If I ever win the lottery, I’m getting that made as a physical object. Amazingly deep gameplay, tons of loops, ramps, shots, DMD games, etc. PP: BRUSA and the fourth are good, but I have more hours in PP:TS than I have on either my Bally Vector or my Fish Tales.

    So, I’ll probably buy this. Doubly so since I already have a monitor turned 90-degrees. And I know this is RPS, but I wouldn’t mind seeing an iOS version, either.

    • Gabe McGrath says:

      As a pinball nutter, I have to second ANY positive reference to the Pro Pinball series.
      The physics in those games is utterly fantastic.

      The balls bounce, roll and *spin* exactly as they should, and the table designs
      are very much in tune with real tables to a large extent.

      They’re available on GOG but I think they’re maybe some issues playing them on modern systems?
      I’m sure /someone/ here will know for sure….

    • Lacero says:

      I just bought Timeshock from gog based on your recommendation and it’s pretty good, works fine on windows7. I like the side to side table design and I’m getting the hang of hitting the ramps which is good.

      I still miss the pirates table from slam tilt though. The music was awesome.

    • Shadowcat says:

      Timeshock is simply the best PC pinball table I’ve ever played. I also love Fantastic Journey (which is a simpler table, but still brilliant fun in its own right). I would pay many dollars for an updated Pro PInball series — all four tables, upgraded to the physics and features of the latter tables, and tweaked to run issue-free on modern PCs.

      And yeah… if I ever ended up with more money than I knew what to do with, a real-life Timeshock table would definitely be built.

    • Gabe McGrath says:

      (quote) “I would pay many dollars for an updated Pro PInball series — all four tables, upgraded to the physics and features of the latter tables, and tweaked to run issue-free on modern PCs.”

      Yes, yes and HELL yes.

      ie:…..

      Dear Devs,

      Please contact the devs Cunning Developments, and make this so.

      Signed,
      Gabe’s wallet.

  16. Xanadu says:

    Looks like it has moved on a bit since i last played pinball on a computer quarter of a century ago
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAFYP0BvR-M

    How does PC pinball handle tilting?

    • Brackynews says:

      There is usually a button to “nudge” the table, and you get maybe three nudges in a short timespan before it tilts. On the PS3 some of the pinball emulators use the motion sensing controller to do the same thing, but it isn’t very nuanced.

  17. Flukie says:

    Pinball Dreams has such epic music gameplay and themes, and to think they would go on to make the game i’m installing today.

  18. Whiskey Jak says:

    Two posts on Pinball in major gaming blogs on the same day?

    http://kotaku.com/5852661/pinball-teeters-on-the-brink-of-obsolescence-and-a-resurgence

    (Preemptive commentary: Yeah, so I read Kotaku from time to time, sue me).

  19. Torgen says:

    For those wanting to get into the real deal, or classic arcade collecting, check for a collector group in your area. We have a wonderful group of folks in Florida, named “Florida Arcade and Pinball Collectors” oddly enough. http://www.arcadeflorida.com They even put on two expos a year, GameWarp and Southern Pinball Festival.

  20. DigitalSignalX says:

    Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve played the silver ball. From Soho down to Brighton I must have played them all.

  21. Kleppy says:

    For everybody interested in Pinball that’s also got an Android based phone, you have to check out Pinball Deluxe. It’s been eating up quite a bit of time at work for me. I especially like the Carnival table.

    Edit: also, Pinball Arcade looks really, really good. Gotta wonder how much each table is going to cost though.

  22. Mist says:

    Since you mentioned Future Pinball..

    the official site hasn’t been updated in forever, but there is still an active community making tables, all of which get released here:

    http://www.pinsimdb.org/

  23. Freudian Slip says:

    I spent my high school years skipping class and playing ‘Monster Madness’ at the bar next door. Arrived at Uni to find the Student Union had a table. I got the high-score on my second 20p. Somebody noticed and said ‘You’re a legend at that mate.’ I said, “cheers.” and we never met or spoke again. But for a moment there I was ‘a legend’

    Well worth the 9 grand and a 2:2.

    Turns out it was called Monster Bash!

    Probably the best times of my life happened in a cramped square room with a pinball machine in it. Great times.

    • Torgen says:

      Monster Bash is still one of the most popular pins, still going for *well* over $5000 for an average condition machine.

  24. ulix says:

    This is awesome. I’ve been playing zen Pinball and Marvel Pinball on my PS3 to death.

    By the way, Zen is also bringing its platform to PC. For now only the Marvel tables are announced, but since they’re developing a new plaform for PS3 anyway (in which then all tables from Zen Pinball and Marvel Pinball will be integrated, just as with Pinball FX2 on 360) I wouldn’t be suprised if they’d bring the whole thing to PC.

    On the pricing: it would be cool if it was similar to the Zen pricing model. On PS3 you get the four base tables for 8€, every additional table costs 2€. Zen is only releasing about one table evere one or two months though… so maybe 2 every month might be a bit much (I’d still buy ‘em all).

    The prospect of having real classic tables digitally is awesome though (the Zen tables are all Zen’s creations, and many wouldn’t even be possible in the real world). I hope they can deliver on the promise of “2 tables a month for years to come”.

    *HAPPY*

  25. johnpeat says:

    I used to play Pinball Dreams and Pinball Fantasies (Amiga) a LOT – I also loved the Dragons Fury/Revenge and Crue Ball (Megadrive)!

    I’ve never liked nor seen the point of pinball games which render ‘real’ pinball tables in 3D and/or attempt to cram their super-portrait format onto a screen which is anything but.

    Seriously – it’s a crap idea – stop it.

    • ulix says:

      Yeah, it really is a crap idea.

      At least if you’re a millionaire and can buy all these tables for real, and pay someone to spruce them up to their original state.

      If you’re not a millionaire, however, it is a fucking awesome idea!

    • ulix says:

      Also, there are a lot of pinball enthusiasts (much bigger freaks than me), that have actually built their own “Pinball cabs”, using two or three monitors.

      Just look at this thread on the Zen forums where all manner of pinball freaks ask for a PC version of Pinball FX2 and post pictures of their machines:

      http://forum.zenstudios.com/showthread.php?t=2946

      This is so awesome, and I bet this game will support 2 and 3 monitor setups just to please these enthusiasts.

    • johnpeat says:

      @Ulix – you probably play MAME games through a device which reduces your monitor resolution and adds screen-burn,dirt and fag burns to the display??

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  27. sonicblastoise says:

    Wow! I feel like I’m actually playing real virtual pinball

  28. Jason Moyer says:

    Man, early to mid 90′s Williams and Bally machines were the greatest things ever. I never played the Ripley’s one, but I definitely sank hundreds of dollars into those other 3 machines in college. If the engine is decent and they keep releasing tables of this qualtiy, hoo boy. Gimme some Attack From Mars, Medieval Madness, Monster Bash, Addam’s Family, and Junkyard and I’d be set for life.

    How does this compare to Virtual Pinball/PinMAME?

  29. terry says:

    Good to see Tales of the Arabian Nights there. If they land No Good Gophers and Medieval Madness, perhaps with The Getaway and Lethal Weapon as a follow up, I’ll bite.

  30. ElvisNeedsBoats says:

    Pin-bot and Cyclone tables and it’s a done deal.

  31. Megadyptes says:

    Reply fail – ignore.

  32. Premium User Badge

    jrodman says:

    Not precisely relevant to the post, but if you find yourself visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, and don’t have a top flight pinball establishment in your hometown, you owe it to yourself to visit the pacific pinball museum. http://pacificpinball.org/

    It’s a good 20 minute drive from downtown, but it’s worth it, I say.

  33. LGM says:

    I’m excited for this! The Hall of Fame games are fantastic, great physics and graphics. We are in dire need of some quality pinball on PC. Future Pinball is ok but the slingshot physics are terrible, which is kind of a deal breaker. Visual Pinball has great physics but overall pretty bad graphics, as it’s all Visual Basic.

    Hope this comes to Steam!

  34. Snuffy the Evil says:

    My only virtual pinball experience was with 3D Pinball for Windows- Space Cadet.

    It seems I was missing out on all of the fun during my childhood.

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  37. BobsLawnService says:

    This is one of the first decent usages of DLC that I have seen and I hope it works well for them.

  38. Shadowcat says:

    I must say that I have some doubts about their ability to churn out quality tables at that rate. Maybe if they’re licensed tables, it means all the hard work has already been done? Wait and see, I suppose.

    • Shadowcat says:

      Oh wow. When I wrote that I thought it had said “a new table every two months”, but it’s actually “two new tables every month”. I definitely don’t believe they can produce a quality pinball table every two weeks.

  39. GameOverMan says:

    Pinball Dreams: DICE’s first game. Look at them now.

  40. Gabe McGrath says:

    Looking at the trailer for this game, I think the actually ‘balls’ themselves look pretty rubbish.
    Having a static ‘silver circle’ move about the table really destroys the illusion, don’t you think?

    *Surely* any modern console/PC can do a ‘mirror reflection’ effect on a pinball these days.